Golf Course Review: Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek (OR)

Located less than 30 minutes northwest of Portland’s city center, Pumpkin Ridge is a beautiful golf venue that has played host to many big-time championship golf moments throughout the years, including David Duval’s win in the 1993 Nike Tour Championship, Tiger Woods’ final amateur championship and others including the Safeway Classic, Women’s Open Championship, US Girls’ Junior Championship, the US Junior Amateur, US Women’s Amateur and others.

Most notably of the club’s major golf moments is perhaps Tiger Woods’ climactic victory in a 36-hole match play before turning pro in the 1996 US Amateur. It was Tiger’s third consecutive US Amateur title, and his PGA career that would follow changed the world of golf forever.

An interesting side note: Do you know what Tiger’s first PGA event was? The answer is the Greater Milwaukee Open at Brown Deer Park, in my home area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The big golf publications took notice of Pumpkin Ridge’s fantastic golf early and often, and even with the Bandon property also located in the same state, their courses continue to be highly ranked, including:

Golf Digest:

  • Ghost Creek: 67th best public course (US)
  • Ghost Creek: 13th best course (OR)
  • Ghost Creek: Best new public course (US, 1992)
  • Witch Hollow: 2nd best new private course (US, 1992)

GolfWeek:

  • Ghost Creek: 7th best public course (OR)
  • Witch Hollow: 151st best course (US)

Golf.com:

  • Ghost Creek: 56th best public course (US)
  • Ghost Creek: 6th best public course (OR)

One of the things that really shocked me about Pumpkin Ridge is how small the greens are. The course is not overly long at 6,839 yards from the tips, but the fairways are rather tight and the greens remind me of ones that would have been designed in the 1920’s and 1930’s at great private clubs.

Ghost Creek is not a private golf club, though, while Witch Hollow is. Tight fairways with small greens means shots off the tee are not easy, but more importantly approach shots are unbelievably challenging.

The one thing I had on this day, though, was solid approach shots.

Ghost Creek leads off with a straight-forward par four to help golfers get warmed up. At 392 yards with a slight lilt to the right, this is an easy driving hole with a fairly benign green complex – softly risen with sand front-left, but otherwise level and hittable.

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Hole 1: Par 4 (447/392/372/328)

Don’t get too used to wide open driving areas with adjacent fairways to bail out poor drives, because the second hole tightens the fly zone considerably. Playing a yard shorter than the first hole from the blue tees, the second is 391 yards with a slim corridor through trees to one of the toughest greens to hit on the course.

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Hole 2: Par 4 (414/391/364/325)

Hole 2: Par 4 (414/391/364/325)

The first of the par threes on the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge, the third hole is an absolutely beautiful one-shotter downhill to a wide green that is miniscule from front-to-back:

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Looking Forward to: Pumpkin Ridge (OR)

A few weeks ago, I booked my flight to Portland, Oregon, to attend the annual Oregon Healthcare Association conference. While booking my flight online, I remember looking at the potential Sunday flights out of Milwaukee and thinking to myself that the 6 am would be brutal, and decided to instead go with a friendlier flight time in the afternoon.

Somewhere in this process, it turns out I selected the 6 am flight. I realized that on Thursday, and quickly called the airline to ask about changing my flights. I will not have access to a hotel room at 10 am, and have no work responsibilities until early Monday morning. The lady on the phone told me it would cost $50, to which I brought up the extra $11 I paid for travel insurance. “That only counts if there is a death or serious illness,” she told me. Out of principle, I told her I disagree with this business rule and cannot imagine it will cost the airline $50 to hit a couple of keys to change a flight a month and a half away. I was not going to give them another $50 for it, even though it was obviously my mistake.

I hung up the phone in semi-frustration, and vented about airlines to a friend whose desk is across from mine. “Paul, Portland is an awesome city, why don’t you just find something to do on Sunday?”

Light bulbs went off as I realized I have never played a round of golf in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. So later that day I went on GolfOregon.com for some ideas on courses to play in the Portland area, and came up with this gem: Pumpkin Ridge.

Pumpkin Ridge is the annual host to the LPGA’s Safeway Classic, which starts this year on Monday, August 13. It has also played host to Nike Tour Championships, US Women’s Open Championships, US Women’s Amateur Championships, US Junior Amateur Championships, US Girls’ Junior Amateur Championships, and US Amateur Championships – the most recognizable of which was in 1996 when Tiger Woods won his unprecedented third straight US Amateur.

So I called their PGA Head Golf Professional and explained my situation and desire to play their course, and now have a tee time to play Ghost Creek, which opened in 1992 as Golf Digest’s “Best New Public Course in the United States” (it is also the course played for the Safeway Classic, which I am sure you will see some of on the Golf Channel this week).

Needless to say, I am now pretty excited about my subconscious decision to take the 6 am flight to Portland!

Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge: Hole 12
Ghost Creek at Pumpkin Ridge: Hole 18